The lonely struggle of independents when facing the BCA giants

Chris Campbell

Thursday night was a meet-and-greet event for Burnaby councillor and mayoral candidates.

It was hosted by the Burnaby Board of Trade and gave candidates an excellent chance to meet the public. Tables were set up sort of like an election trade show and people could go from table to table asking questions and picking up literature.

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One table stood out to me – mostly because it was one of the two most understated of the event, along with mayoral candidate Sylvia Gung.

And by understated I mean that the candidates at this table clearly have the least amount of funds for signage.

While the major parties and mayoral candidate Mike Hurley had huge signs with logos, three independent candidates – Janice Beecroft, Lee Rankin and Claire Preston – didn’t have much. Beecroft did have one small sign on an easel, but that was about it.

This is the life of an independent – underfunded, unknown and yet, undaunted.

OK, this doesn’t really include Rankin, who has served on council before and is well-known in the community for his long years of service. He at least has an advantage from his past service.

My focus in this blog are Beecroft and Preston. Beecroft ran for the Burnaby First Coalition in 2014, but is going independent this time.

“I wanted to be independent because I think local politics needs to get away from that partisanship,” she told me at the event. “I think everybody should be working together for their community on issues.”

Preston is running for office for the first time and it’s been a fun, but challenging experience, she said.

She has pretty much zero budget, but is a quick study and learning a lot about the campaign process as she goes on.

“You have to put in the time,” Preston told me. “I’ve met a lot of really great people and have enjoyed sharing my message.”

I have a lot of admiration for anyone who puts themselves out there for public office, but especially for those who run as independents. It’s such a giant task to take on a political behemoth like the Burnaby Citizens Association, which dominates council and school board. Following the 2014 election, the BCA reported $508,687 in campaign contributions. Corporate donations totalled $275,550 while trade unions pitched in $202,220.

How does anyone compete with this? Why would anyone want to even try running as an independent with little money to spend on a campaign?

“I want to make our community a better place,” said Preston.

 

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